Indian Railways Reports
7 weeks of enjoyment on Indian Railways
It was time to experience the joys of Indian Railways again – in all
its moods. This `reward’ comes as part of our family’s once-in-two-
years holiday in India.
Preparations, of course, began months in advance. Bookings were made
using IRCTC. Booking about a dozen individual journeys through IRCTC
was a breeze â€“ all transactions went through ok. The first `touch-
point’ of IR was positive. Good.
Apart from train travel, one highlight of this visit was being able
to connect with several other IRFCA members. I use `connect’ because
I could meet some, but only talk to some others.
Well, our rendezvous with IR started well before we touched the
shores of India. As a family who has a natural preference for rail
travel, we also experienced 2 Malaysian Railways’ trains â€“ from
Singapore to Malaysia & back. Both of these were powered by our own
(ex-IR) YDM4 locos. It was wonderful to hear, see and feel the
throbbing of an ALCO power. Added to that is the gentle rock and sway
of Meter Gauge. All in all, it was a very positive experience as a
traveler as well as a rail-fan. More about these travels later.
2 Dec 2008
Our first contact with IR was not on a 2xxx train, but on the 2nd
class carriage of an afternoon Central Railway Harbour line local
from Andheri to CST â€“ after taking two trusted Mumbai “autos” from
Mumbai International Airport to Andheri train station. Against common
wisdom that one should take an AC bus from Mumbai airport to Pune, we
had chosen something that was closer to us at heart â€“ a journey by
2nd class sitting carriage of Deccan Queen.
The journey by Deccan Queen was just as one would expect â€“ simple and
efficient. WCAM3 21944 kept a steady pace through the suburbs of
Mumbai and promptly deposited us at Shivajinagar at 5 minutes past 8.
The highlight of the journey â€“ in particular to a Kiwi friend
traveling with us â€“ was the variety of food of offer. Take your pick
from Vegetable cutlets, Omelette, Fried Fish (Fish n Chips), Cheese
Toast, Kanda-bhajji (Onion bhaji), batata-wada (Potato-wada),
sabudana-wada, wada-pav, chikki â€¦â€¦all fresh and economical.
Unable to make up my mind whether DQ’s cutlets are better or
Omelette, I had one of each. That didn’t help clear the confusion â€“
both were equally good!
8 Dec 2008
The return to Mumbai was equally business-like, again by Deccan Queen
(although some members of the family had to travel by bus). Lead by
WCAM3 21891, it was again a punctual performance.
During our stay at Pune, I could meet Apurva, Ashish and Hrushikesh
(all together), and Sandeep Athavale (at a common relative’s place).
18 Dec 2008
This was our big day out. We had decided to save (relatively)
elsewhere, so that we can splurge on this sector. Yes, we were to
take 2951 Rajdhani and travel by AC First Class! This was also my/our
very first experience of LHB coaches. Having travelled AC1 by 2951
way back in 1996, there was also this feeling of comparison â€“ wonder
if this would turn out to be as good an experience as the one before.
- Food and the service was as good as before
- LHB coaches were a disappointment â€“ jerks and other aspects discussed several times on IRFCA
- Punctuality was good up to Ratlam, but we reached New Delhi late by 45 m.
The amount of food that IRCTC offers to AC1 passengers is simply
awesome (too much to say it another way).
No sooner that the train left BCT, mineral water bottles and
newspapers (“Mid-day” and “Afternoon”) were offered. Then orange
juice came in cute little glasses. [The train had not even reached
Mahalaxmi yet]. Before Andheri, tea/coffee choice was ascertained,
and hand-towels and soaps distributed. Before Borivali, the snack
trays arrived. It consisted of a vegetarian cheese sandwich, peas
samosa, dry gulabjamun, roasted & salted cashew nuts, chocolate and
tea/coffee. There was a wet face-tissue as well (as offered by
airlines). The food was delicious and well presented.
The conductor who came thereafter had a hand-held device in addition
to the conventional charts. He said it was a new device being tried
At 19:15 (~2 hours after the snack service), the tables were set up
once again along with soup plateâ€“bowlâ€“spoon. The vegetarian soup
option was hot and delicious corn & peas soup, served together with
soup sticks and an excellent warm bun and Amul butter.
Other items that were laid out include Mahananda “Mast Dahi” (Indian-
style Yogurt), tomato ketchup and Noga pickles.
The next course comprised hot and tasty vegetarian cutlets, pasta,
salad and papad. We were already almost full by now, but the main
course was yet to come.
The main course was in the form of dry potato vegetable, capsicum-
paneer dry vegetable, dal, rotis, salad (different from the one
served as entrÃ©e) and pulao (pilaf) â€“ all being brought in repeatedly
by the friendly and efficient staff. This was an `eat-as-much-as-one-
wants’ service â€“ a culinary tear on wheels.
The dessert was an equally superb Anjeer (Fig) Ice cream, followed by
sweet ginger-cubes as mouth-freshener.
What a fantastic meal service it had been! All items were prepared,
presented and served well. The main IRCTC staff in-charge was Prakash
Jadhav, who said he has been on Mumbai Rajdhani for 30 years!
The dinner service was complete by 20:30, the tables were cleared and
the cabin cleaned. Then the beds were prepared as the train
approached Vadodara for an on-time arrival.
The breakfast service was equally filling and consisted of corn-
flakes, banana, toasts, butter & jam, vegetarian cutlets and
Here are a few points of comparison with respect to our journey in
The shiny brass vase with a solitary rose to welcome to the cabin was
missing now. The rectangular hand-rests with attractive bright covers
(4 of) that were present in 1996 were missing too. The substitutes
were `normal’ IR pillows in white pillow-covers. The absence of
corridor-side window meant that the door had to kept open if you
wished to enjoy the views on that side. In 1996, the dust-bin
(rubbish-bin) was a cute stainless steel one; now it was a big
plastic one â€“ almost looking out of place. The absence of washbasin
in LHB AC1 coaches has already been discussed on this forum.
The additions were individual reading lights and cell-phone charging
sockets. And of course the jerks that come “free” with LHB rides,
irrespective of the class you travel in.
Overall, my vote would be for ICF coaches. In particular some of the
more recent ones are simply superb.
At Mumbai Central, I noticed a conventional corridor-type First Class
coach in the incoming ADI-BCT Gujarat Express.
Our power was WCAM2P 21874 up to BRC and then WAP5 30007 GZB, marked
fit for 160 KPH.
Other things noted include:
- a massive 61-coach freight train at Dahanu Road, north-bound
- literally dozens of northbound freight trains between Palwal and
TKD on the left most (West-most) line, simply one behind another. I
think sometimes there was no signal between two successive trains. It
was as if, a train of trains – laid one after another for miles
19 & 20 Dec 2008
Thanks to sound advice from Shanx, our booking was at Ginger Hotel
(erstwhile Rail Yatri Nivas), New Delhi Railway Station. At Rs. 1000
(including taxes) for a family room, which sleeps 4 adults, this is
indeed excellent value for money. The rooms are clean and AC was
working well â€“ not that it was needed. The USP is obviously close
proximity to NDLS (that saves the trouble of haggling with Delhi
autos). Thoroughly recommended for anyone visiting Delhi.
On his further advice when I spoke to him at Delhi, we undertook an
exploratory return journey on Delhi Metro, from the just-next-door
New Delhi Metro underground station to Kashmiri Gate, and then on
another train to trans-Yamuna suburb of Dishad Garden. The next day,
we travelled from New Delhi to Rajiv Chowk (Connaught Place) and back.
We found the overall experience very positive. It is a matter of
pride and satisfaction that Delhi Metro is as good as anyone else in
the operations part of it. It is great to see that DMRC is spreading
its wings even further. The negative experience was that people tried
to get in before those on the train (we included) alighted.
21 Dec 2008
Travel on the fastest train on Indian Railways.
Well, this was our planned schedule for the day. We were to travel by
Bhopal Shatabdi Express up to Agra Cantt, spend the day doing
sightseeing at Agra, and then take our favourite Grand Trunk Express
from Agra to Itarsi.
Checkout at Ginger was swift, and no time we were at New Delhi
station, platform 1. What greeted us was not the shiny rake of
Shatabdi but heaps after heaps of used white bed-sheets (from bed-
roll sets) lying on the platform in a highly un-organized way. [Upon
reading Karan’s report, I am guessing these bed-sheets were from the
incoming JAT-NDLS Rajdhani] Some were getting wet; some were getting
pulled away from the heap by the passing trolleys. I wondered if
there was not a better way to manage this.
It was foggy, but the LP confirmed that the MPS remains 150 kph.
However, the run to Agra was totally disappointing. The train often
speeded up, only to start braking again. This cyclic pattern meant
that it ran at MPS was no more than 2 minutes continuously.
The result was that we reached Agra Cantt at 08:58 instead of 08:12,
which is 46 minutes’ delay in a run of 2 hours. Faridabad was passed
at 06:57, Mathura Jn a08:21, d08:24. We crossed both 2925 Paschim
Express (standing on PF) and 2951 Mumbai Rajdhani at MTJ, and both
were behind GZB WAP5s. Immediately thereafter, we crossed 2627 behind
a BSL WAP4.
Later that night, we found ourselves again at Agra Cantt station,
waiting for 2626 Grand Trunk Express. Looking at last whole week’s
performance of the train [on www.trainenquiry.com], I had expected
the train to be about 45 minutes late. It did not disappoint!
Grand Trunk arrived at 22:30 (STA 21:47) – 43 minutes late – behind a
shiny ED WAP4. On entering our 3AC coach we found that it had been
SMB-ed, and that most passengers in the 2 bays we had got split into
were in wrong berths. It took about 20 minutes to sort out everything
and climb into my very own SMB.
I have one comment about allocation in SMB coaches.
On 2616, when we made the bookings, the ERS showed berth numbers and
positions according to the non-SMB configuration. These berth numbers
were retained, which meant that I got SMB with no. 54.
However, when my sister-in-law traveled by 2136 ex NGP to Pune on 3
Jan 09, we found that all the berth numbers had been reallocated, so
that passengers retained there berth positions. This means the SMBs
were allocated last. To me, this was a more beneficial for passengers
who had booked ahead.
I must admit that once I was in my sleeping position, SMB appeared no
different than a conventional SUB. During the night I felt as if the
train was running on a bed of silk â€“ no sound from the rails, no
jerks, no sudden braking, no sound of horn. It was an ideal journey.
The coach was very new â€“ Oct 2009, numbered WGACCN1 SR 08118C. I only
got up when we were leaving Bhopal at 06:30 (STA 05:25).
I stood at the door after Obaidullaganj to admire the Barkhera-Budni
ghat section. What a thrill it was. I also found several changes that
were new to me – which include different ways of securing the rocks
adjacent to the tracks. Another new (for me) thing was that the train
did not stop at Midghat; just slowed down and picked up speed
immediately thereafter. [There is a 30 kph sign there].
We bid farewell to Grand Trunk at Itarsi at 07:48 (28 m late).
I will report observations at Itarsi, Nagpur station and loco
sightings etc. in a separate post.
24 Dec 2008
On 24th, we took 2622 Tamilnadu Express from Itarsi to Nagpur. Apurva
Bahadur and Lalam were on the same train, in the same coach, and in
fact, in the adjacent bay. They were returning to Pune via Nagpur,
after accompanying Dr. Mani Vijay and others on the Khandwa-Indore MG
Thanks to Apurva being on the train, I kept getting regular updates
about its location, till it finally pulled in to Itarsi at 11:38
behind ED WAP4 22390. The departure was at 11:45. Our coach S6, SR
06250 had a CBC coupler, but the jerks were far less pronounced than
in LHB. At Dharakhoh (a 12:59), 2 x WAG5 bankers were very quickly
attached. We crossed Amla Jn at good speed (13:45) before finally
reaching Nagpur at 15:55. The run between ET and NGP was excellent
(4h 10m) except a few caution orders. The veg lunch of sambar, mixed
vegetable curry, hot parathas, rice and curd was very tasty as well,
although it was served very late at 14:30.
At Nagpur station, I briefly met Satish Nair, and said good-bye to
Apu and Lalam.
On 27th Dec, VSP and Bharath Moro were passing through NGP, arriving
by 2130 Azad Hind and departing on 28th by 2724 AP Exp. I met them on
their arrival and we spent some quality time together in their
retiring room. One of the results of this meeting – and thanks to VSP
always carrying around his pack of train timetables â€“ was the
inspiration of my next trip. On their recommendation, later seconded
by Alok, I decide to make a quick trip on a NG train.
I cannot thank VSP, Bharath and Alok Patel enough for their guidance.
My trip from Nagpur to Chhindwara and back proved to be one of the
most memorable experiences for me. Although traveling on IR for over
40 years, I had never done an overnight NG trip.
3 & 4 Jan 09
I booked my Sleeper class berths one day before the journey via IRCTC
(there is a quota of 10 berths). My onward journey was by 7 NRC
departing NGP at 22:30. It was an 11-coach rake, with a very clean
Sleeper coach. The arrangement of seats is 2 × 2, with berths on top -
along the length of the carriage. The coach had 1 toilet at each end â€“
which were clean too. Seats and berths were both padded. The berth
was nice and comfortable. Occupancy was 100% – although most booked
berths or seats on the spot through TTE, not in advance like me. The
good thing was that there were no extra passengers. ZDM 237 powered
our train towards its destination. I recall at least 2 crossings
during the night. The nice rocking motion, moderate speed of 25 kph
max and the throbbing sound of the loco â€“ all combined to become a
true delight for a rail-fan like me.
The arrival at Chhindwara was on time at 04:45. My return booking was
by 2 NRC, which meant I did not have to change anything â€“ same rake,
same coach, and same berth. Early morning tea at Chhindwara was
refreshing. I noted BG platform on one side, and a long continuous
platform with 2 x individual platforms for NG. Our train was
occupying one of these. The other NG platform had a connecting
service to Nainpur. A lot of passengers from our train 7 NRC ran to
catch seats on this connecting train. The station (at least the NG
part which I saw) was extremely well maintained and impressive.
Another ZDM (222) took off with our train 2 NRC at the scheduled time
of 05:25. The running throughout was smooth, and we were on or before
time at all stations en-route. The thing that struck me was the
friendliness of the staff including stationmasters â€“ on the route.
They would happily allow and participate in my photography, and
provide information about the area. One of them said I must come
again with family, and that he would be happy to arrange
accommodation at Forest departments Rest House near some famous local
falls and forests.
The good run was spoilt by the outer signal at Itwari where we waited
from 11:05 to 11:12 (7 minutes). We eventually arrived at Nagpur
exactly 7 minutes late, at 11:27.
But what a wonderful round trip it had been. What a way to begin the
2951 at one end of the scale, and 7 NRC at the other â€“ both with
their own distinct charms. I felt a twinge in my heart at the
realization that the days of these beautiful NG services are
numbered. Rail-fans, do go out and enjoy these little cuties while we
5 Jan 2009
Today, we were to take our trusted train 2106 Vidarbha Express, to
return to Mumbai.
As we waited at Nagpur station for the on-time arrival of 2106, a
late running 2724 Andhra Pradesh Express was cleared to go at 16:45.
Within exactly 5 minutes of departure of this train, 2102 Jnaneshwari
Express, running right time was cleared to go too. It left at 16:54
behind Santagrachi (SRC) WAP4 22576. At 16:40, 1039 Maharashtra
Express arrived behind BSL WAP4 22680 “Khandesh”.
Our train arrived behind BSL WAP4 22514 exactly on time at 17:00 and
departed at 17:15.All AC3 coaches were with SMB. Our coach B3 was an
excellent clean and new coach â€“ WGACCN, CR 08104, April 08.
At Badnera, Zubin & his lovely little daughter had come all the way
to meet me. We spent a few minutes knowing about each other before
2106 made another on-time departure.
This was another terrific journey â€“ smooth, noiseless, jerk-free, no
extra stops â€“ just efficient. We slept well through the night as the
train continued its westward journey, and finally deposited us right
time at Dadar station. This journey was perhaps even better than the
one on 2616 on 21 Dec. Thank you, IR, for such wonderful experiences.
The only little downside was that the tea at Badnera station was not
as good as it used to be. We as a family have had the tradition of
savouring the Badnera tea for many years now.
Another observation relates to the angle of reading lights. When the
light of the SU was switched on (the little girl there was `playing’
with it), it directly hit my eyes â€“ I was on inside upper berth. And
man, these lights ARE bright, I say!
Our last two journeys on IR consisted of a return trip from Mumbai to
12 Jan 2009
This journey meant another new travel experience for me â€“ a ride
behind a WDP4 loco. We took 6529 Udyan Express. The WDP4 did full
justice and kept the train on schedule, until we hit a 10-minute hold-
up at Akurdi. [Next morning’s newspapers carried reports of 3 young
men’s unfortunate death having been run over by Mumbai-bound Deccan
Queen]. We arrived late by 8 minutes at Pune.
14 Jan 2009
This was to be the last IR main-line journey during this holiday. The
first as well as journeys were both on Deccan Queen. The run up to
Lonavala behind WCAM3 21891 was superb â€“ we reached LNL 8 minutes
before time. Karjat was passed at 08:55, Kalyan at 09:38 and Dadar
reached exactly at 10:15. I noticed work progressing inside Parsik
Tunnel â€“ there was a TSR in place..
The last `local’ journey too offered a different reward. The WR
Churchgate-Malad fast local, which we took between Dadar and Andheri â€“
was a MVRC rake (107A05). The feeling of space and airiness due to
its open-plan design impressed me. The ventilation was excellent. The
overall looks were very clean and good. The `open’ partition between
I and II class is a good idea, I think, from passenger security
perspective. The acceleration seemed to better than with conventional
DC-only rakes. The display and announcement system was working,
although there was an unpleasant crackle when the motorman spoke over
the PA system. It was perfect when `automated’ announcements were on.
It was coincidental that my first and last M/E journeys were on
Deccan Queen, an eternal favourite since my childhood. It was a
further co-incidence that my first and last train journeys were both
on Mumbai locals â€“ beginning with a conventional DC-only CR Harbour
service, and ending with a brand new WR MVRC service.
Connecting with IRFCA members
While in India, I could speak to Dr. Mani Vijay, Giridhar Patnaik and
Poochi Venkat; and to Dr. Saifullah while at Singapore in transit.
In a way, it was strange that Dr. Mani (from USA) and I (from New
Zealand) came within 300 km of each other, probably more than once,
during our respective travels. On the other hand, I was lucky to be
in the same coach as Apurva (and Lalam) on 2622, each one of us
totally oblivious of this when the bookings were made!
All in all, this was yet another thoroughly enjoyable holiday in
terms of what IR has to offer to the passengers in general, and to us
rail-fans in particular.
We had enjoyed AC1 on 2951, the famed food & efficiency of Deccan
Queen, the thrill of an overnight Narrow Gauge trip, the rides on
Grand Trunk, Tamilnadu and Vidarbha Expresses (all amongst my
favorite trains), a ride behind a WDP4, rides on LHB coaches and
Delhi Metro, and meeting/speaking to several IRFCA members. What else
can one ask for!
Thanks for your patient reading. I am posting the observations about
locos and trains (for those who love numbers) separately.
While I was compiling this Trip report at Christchurch, I got this
mail from my daughter Neha, who was still in India. It relates to my
daughters’ (Neha & Shreya) travel on Deccan Queen from Pune to Mumbai
on 28 Jan 2009.
Well, we are both back from Pune. Got home at 11.25 after an
absolutely amazing and emotional train ride!
DQ was just totally awesome – no words to describe it. Left Pune bang
on time at 7.15 am. After we left from Pune, the train sped up
straight away. Before we knew it, we were at Lonavala – 10 minutes
before time!!! Also crossed Indrayani there, so I’m guessing that was
running before time too! Shreya and I couldn’t believe how fast the
train went between Lonavala and Karjat! As soon as DQ got into
Mumbai. it just went for it – so incredibly fast – it was getting
hard to even just stand! Arrived into Dadar at 10.15 sharp. We then
took a Borivali slow from Dadar and reached home at 11.25 – so it was
a very fun journey back. I ate two cutlets, 2 cups of coffee and 1
cup of masala chai. Shreya had chai and cutlets! Great fun.
Material provided by Shirish Paranjape, Copyright © 2008.